What Can You Expect During a Visit to the Taj Mahal?

The stunning white Taj Mahal temple is surrounded by a series of buildings and gardens that showcase the wonders of Mughal India.

Jun 28, 2023By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

what to see during a visit to the taj mahal


One of the modern day seven wonders of the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal in India is a true sightseer’s paradise. Located in the Mughal gardens in the Taj Ganj district of Agra in northern India, its stunning white marble exterior and intricately carved details make it one of the most impressive feats of architecture in the entire world. Despite being built during the 17th century, it remains in pristine condition today, and it is an iconic example of the exquisite craftsmanship of the Mughal Empire. We take a scan through some of the site’s most popular attractions along with some key facts about the building and its surroundings so you can plan ahead for your visit.


The Taj Mahal Has Three Different Entry Gates

The western gate entrance to the Taj Mahal


There are two gates that lead to the Taj Mahal and its surrounding gardens, the eastern gate, southern gate and western gate. Before visiting it is worth planning ahead which gate you would like to enter by. The eastern gate is near several hotels, making it a convenient entrance if you are staying nearby, however it is farther away from the Taj Mahal’s building complex. The western gate is the main entrance but it is by far the busiest, attracting both locals and large busloads of tourists, so queues can be long. However, it is situated near to the main site, making it more convenient for large groups travelling by bus or car. Meanwhile the south gate is the quietest entrance of the three, and it is set up for pedestrians, but it is currently closed for entry at the time of writing due to security concerns. 


The Mausoleum Is Covered with Carving and Calligraphy

Ornate Mughal decorations on the exterior of the Taj Mahal


The white mausoleum in the center of the Taj Mahal grounds is adorned with a series of intricate patterned stone carvings and elements of calligraphy that reveal just how highly skilled the people of the Mughal Empire really were. The carved latticework served both a decorative and a practical purpose, allowing for ventilation inside the building during the warmest times of year. Meanwhile the building’s calligraphy, written in the ‘thuluth’ script style, mostly recites verses from the holy book of Quran related to themes of judgement and rewards that await the most faithful and devout Muslims.


There Are Several Buildings on Site

The red sandstone mosque at the Taj Mahal site

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While the stunning white Mausoleum is undoubtedly the star attraction of the Taj Mahal complex, there are also a series of further structures and features designed to complement it. The red sandstone mosque stands on the western side of the mausoleum. It was built according to Muslim law, which required any mausoleum to be accompanied by a mosque for religious worship. Situated on the grounds of the Taj Mahal there is also a guesthouse, also known as the ‘rest house’, set on the eastern side of the Taj.


The Taj Mahal gardens


It was designed as a replica of the mosque, mirroring the same elements of balance, symmetry and harmony that adorn the entire site, however, it was never actually used as a working mosque as it doesn’t feature a Mihrab for Muslim prayer, or a Minbar, from where the priest would deliver his sermon. The site also houses a small museum near the western entrance, which was built between 1899 and 1905, and modernized in 1982. There are also extensive grounds designed to complement the Taj Mahal. 


The Taj Mahal Is Closed on Fridays

The Taj Mahal mausoleum


The site is closed to general visitors on Fridays, to allow local Muslims to offer prayers at the mosque. This is the only day of the week that Muslims can carry out religious practice on site, a decision which has caused controversy amongst the Muslim communities of India. However, the Supreme Court of India has argued the decision was made in order to preserve the posterity of the historical site.

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.